April 7, 2023

The Crucifixion

John 19:16-42 With Dr. Bret Shillingstad

  1. Introduction – Introduce Self.
  2. Background.  Today we’re going to study the crucifixion which is where we’re at in the book of John.  The Bible is a completely integrated book validated by prophecy.  Despite 66 books written by 40 authors over almost 2000 years, it doesn’t contradict itself.  The Bible and the Judeo-Christian faith stand out from other religions because of prophecies, many fulfilled and many others yet unfulfilled.  No other religion purports to tell the future and has such an incredible track record of accurately fulfilled prophecies.  Many are so remarkable that scholars have insisted that many of the Old Testament Books of the Prophets were written after many of these events had already occurred.  Finds, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and other archaeologic finds, show that these passages were written well before these events occurred.  This serves to tell us firsthand that this is the message from the One True God.  Also striking is the incredible integration of the Bible.  Virtually every feast and festival in the Old Testament has a New Testament fulfillment.  There are also numerous typologies as well.  Today we’ll look at a few of those during the course of our study.
  3. First References on how the Messiah would die for our sins
  4. A. When do we first see reference to the manner and place of Christ’s death?  In Genesis 22 we see the first illustration of where Christ would die and how salvation would be accomplished.  
  1. Abraham as we know from the story was instructed to take his only son Isaac on a three day journey.  From Jewish writings we read that Abraham considered his Son dead from the outset of the journey knowing what he was being asked to do by God.  At the same time Abraham trusted God to bring Isaac back from the dead because God had promised to make him a great nation through Isaac that would bless every nation, Jew and Gentile.  Isaac and Abraham were accompanied by two men to the place of his expected death, Mt. Moriah.  Upon approaching Mt. Moriah Isaac was instructed to carry the wood to the top of the mountain.  Many of us envision a young Isaac from childhood stories and paintings but from scripture it is likely that he was a young man, possibly even 30 years of age, and not certainly not a boy.   Isaac asked his father about a sacrifice and Abraham told his son that God would provide a lamb.  Upon reaching the top of the mountain Isaac was bound willingly.  Just as Isaac was about to sacrificed, the angel stopped Abraham.  In the thicket was a ram that was caught.  On that day a ram was sacrificed and not a lamb.  What are the parallels?
  2. A Father willingly demonstrated that He would sacrifice his son – Abraham – Isaac, just like God would sacrifice His son a couple thousand years later.
  3. Both sons were accompanied by two men to the Mountain where they would be sacrificed –  both Isaac and Jesus Christ.  Additionally the Father accompanied both to the place of their expected sacrifice.
  4. Both sons carried the wood of their sacrifice up the mountain – Isaac a bundle of wood and Jesus the Cross.
  5. Both were willing bound and could have resisted – Isaac being a grown young man and his father aged,  Jesus, the One who created the very Hill upon which He was sacrificed.
  6. Both were offered as sacrifices on the same Hill – Mt. Moriah and Golgotha are the one and same place.
  7. The difference?  On that day, Abraham was provided with a ram – the lamb that God would supply – wouldn’t be supplied for another 2000 years when Christ was crucified at the very same site.
  8. Jesus created the hill on which He was crucified and it was only love that held Him to the cross.

                 B .      The Psalms.

  1. I’d also like us to jump ahead to the Psalms, which were written by King David hundreds of years later.  
  2. Many of the Messianic Psalms describe the manner of Christ’s death.  These include the fact that He would be hung on a tree; given gall and vinegar to drink; reproach, shame, and dishonour would be experienced by Him.  Additionally we read that his garments would be divided and for His clothing they would case lots.  They would also pierce His hands and feet.  His dying words are also foretold and it notes that His side would be pierced.
  3. What is most amazing are that these descriptions of Christ’s death are hundred of years before crucifixion was even invented.
  4. Despite the typology of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and these prophecies in the Messianic Psalms that we’ve looked at, there are still hundreds of other prophecies that were fulfilled in many other Old Testament books that we haven’t even looked at.
  1. History of Crucifixion and Jesus’ crucifixion
  2. Invented by the Persians
  1. The Persians were the first to use crucifixion – prior to that the Assyrians and other would impale prisoners and slaves on poles and hang the dead but the Persians were the first to nail their victims alive to poles and trees.
  2. Alexander the Great adopted crucifixion in his wars against the Persians.  He in fact used mass crucifixions as a military tactic for use in war.  After the siege of Tyre he in fact crucified about 2000 along a stretch of shore.  The Phoenicians and Carthaginians learned this technique from the Greeks and also  used it as a military strategy and introduced it to the Roams
  3. Perfected by the Romans
  1. The Romans then developed crucifixion into a type of torture by adding a second piece of wood, the ‘patibulum’, as well as the thorn-shaped ‘sedile’ upon which the victim rested his weight.  Romans would then have the victim carry the Patibulum to which they were fastened through the streets while they were being whipped and humiliated.  The victim was then nailed to the Patibulum which was then attached to the stipes.  A sedile guaranteed that the torture would not be short.  Survival on the cross could vary from 3-4 hours to 3-4 days, depending on the health of the individual and how severe or light the scourgings had been.  Death could be expedited by breaking the legs of the individual so that they could not lift themselves any longer to exhale, causing the victim to suffocate.
  2. Crucifixion was only for the most vile of criminals, slaves, revolutionaries, and generally never allowed as a form of punishment for Roman Citizens.
  3. Many of us are familiar with the torture of crucifixion from the movie ‘The Passion’ and from Easter Productions but I’d like to explore in more detail what Christ endured both physically AND spiritually during His 6 hours on the cross, the implications and fulfillment of prophecy secondary to His Death on the Cross, and the significance of His burial.
  1. Garden of Gethsemane.  In the Garden suffered great mental anguish that we many times overlook.  He knew the sufferings He would endure and what was ahead of Him.  During this time the disciples who were with Him could not even stay awake to comfort Him and support Him.  It is also recorded that Jesus sweat blood, a condition referred to medically as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis, which is known to exist and may occur secondary to intense anquish, which we know Jesus experienced.  In fact Jesus between His second and third prayers, was in such anguish that scripture records that an angel had to come and comfort Him.
  2. The trials.  As we learned last week it was shortly after midnight and into the next day that Jesus underwent trials before the Sanhedrin and Pilate.  In the course of these trials He walked more than 2.5 miles between the sites of these trials, was abandoned by His disciples, and was beaten.
  3. Flogging/Scourging.  Pilate then had Him scourged.   This was accomplished by stripping the victim of clothing and tying the victim to an upright post.  A whip was then used which consisted of several braided or single strands of leather to which metal balls and fragments of sheep bone were attached.  The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by 2 soldiers or one who alternated positions.  The metal balls would cause deep contusions or bruising and the bone fragments would of course cause lacerations.  These lacerations would eventually lead to quivering ribbons of muscle exposed on the victims back.  The goal of this was to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death.  Pain and blood loss would place the victim in a state of circulatory shock.  As a part of this process soldiers would many times taunt their victims and humiliate them.  
  4. Mocking and Humiliation.  The soldiers also placed a robe on Jesus’ back.  By placing this robe on His back and later ripping it from His back, they undoubtably caused severe pain and caused bleeding to resume.  They also put a crown of thorns on His head.   The scalp is one of the most vascular parts of the body and victims have been known to bleed to death from the scalps when they sustain severe trauma to the scalp.  In this case Jesus had a crown of long thorns pushed onto His head, no doubt causing severe pain and additional bleeding.  He was also given a wooden staff as a scepter with which He was later beaten with as well.    We also know that He was spat upon, mocked by the soldiers, and His beard was torn from His face.  The condition of His beard being ripped off may well explain why He was unrecognized by so many after His resurrection.  In fact the men who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaeus did not recognize Jesus until He broke bread, despite the fact that they had heard Him teach before. Similarly the apostles did not immediately recognize Him either.  Certainly people looked different after their beard is shaven off but we also fail to realize the trauma to His face due to the manner in which His beard was removed. He was weakened additionally due to lack of sleep, lack of food and water, as well as from the mental anguish of what He had just endured.  After His scourging, Jesus was in a serious state of shock, if not in a critical condition, before He was even crucified.  
  5. The Crucifixion.  It was customary for the condemned man to carry His cross, or the patibulum, from the place of His flogging to the place of His execution outside the walls of the city.  Since the weight of the full cross was probably over 300 lbs, in most cases only the crossbar was carried, which weighed 75-125 lbs.  This crossbar, or patibulum, was placed across the nape of the neck and balanced across both shoulders.  The victim then had his hands or wrist tied to the patibulum.  The procession to the place of execution was led  by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurian.  One of the soldiers would carry a sign, or titulus, on which the condemned man’s name and crimes were written.  Later the titulus or sign would be attached to the cross.  The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.  Outside the city walls the stipes were permanently located.   To prolong crucifixion and suffering, the sedile was located on the stipes to allow the victim to push upward in order to exhale.  At this point the victim was given by law a mixture of wine and gall as a mild analgesic.  The victim was then thrown down on the patibulum and nailed to the cross using 5-7 inch square nails driven through the wrists.  The victim was then lifted onto the cross by typically 4 soldiers with the assistance of wooden forks or ladders.  The feet were then nailed to the cross and the titulus was attached to the top of the cross.  The crowd and soldiers then typically taunted the condemned man and the soldiers customarily divided the clothes among themselves.  Survival was 3-4 hours to 3-4 days, depending on the condition of the victim and severity of the scourging.  During this time insects would many times light upon or burrow in the open wounds, eyes, nose, and ears of these victims and birds would also secondarily  tear at these sites while the victim was dying.  It was customary to leave the corpse on the cross to be devoured by predatory animals but the family could ask for the body for burial after the soldiers had confirmed that they were dead and with the permission of a Roman judge.  By custom the Roman soldier would pierce the body with a lance or 5-6 foot spear to ensure that they were dead by passing a spear into the right side of the chest and into the heart. 
  6. What was the significance of the Pilate’s Hebrew Inscription discussed in verses 19-22?  Why were the Jews so offended with it?  We see from scripture that Jesus King of the Jews spelled out an acrostic, or acronym, that offended them.  Hebrew is written from right to left, as compared to English, which is written from left to right.  If we translate the inscription into English and put it in the appropriate word order we see that it spells out YHWH.  This was the name for God as written in the scriptures.  Pilate as we see refuses to change the order of the wording and tells the Jews that “What I have written I have written”.  Imagine the horror of the Jewish leaders to not only see the words “Jesus, King of the Jews” but to also realize that each capital letter of each word spelled out the name of God.
  7. Medical Aspects of the crucifixion:
  1. Scourging created a condition of hypovolemic shock from blood loss.  Additionally when the victim was cast onto the patibulum, nailed down, and lifted onto the cross, the wounds would undoubtably reopen and become contaminated with dirt.  Every time the victim lifted himself to breath on the cross and slide upward against it, further bleeding would ensue.  
  2. Nailing through the wrist would cause painful injury and also crush or sever the median nerve.  This is a largely sensory nerve and upon being injured would cause bolts of excruciating burning pain.  It would also result in partial paralysis of the hand due to nerve injury and impaled tendons, resulting in a clawlike hand.  A nail was then driven through the feet to secure it to the stipes or sedile.
  3. A major effect of crucifixion is the way it changes respiration for the victim.  Because of the way the victim was hanging it was almost impossible to exhale passively as you would normally.  The only way to exhale would be to lift oneself up in an effort to exhale air.  Lifting the body to exhale would put excruciating pain on the wrists, arms, and shoulders and cause severe pain in the feet.  Each breath would be agonizing due to discomfort, prasthesias or numbness, muscle cramping, and back pain from the scourgings.  Eventually breathing would become so agonizing and tiring that the victim would no longer be able to lift himself to breath out and they would suffocate.   The two main causes of death from crucifixion were shock from blood loss and exhaustion asphyxia due to the extreme efforts of breathing.  In some cases to speed up death the legs of the victim were broken.  This would make it impossible to push upward to exhale and the victims would essentially suffocate or die of asphyxiation.  
  4. Jesus crucifixion began at 9 am.  Jesus would have walked about a third of a mile from the Praetorium where He was flogged to the site of His crucifixion.  We know from scripture that He was too weakened to carry His own cross and Simon of Cyrene helped carry it to the site of His execution.  During His time on the cross speaking would have been extremely difficult due the difficulty in breathing.  Therefore, Jesus’ statements were very short and terse.    At 3 pm Jesus cried out in a loud voice, bowed His head, and died.  In an effort to speed up the death of the other two victims, their legs were broken but Jesus’ were not as He had already died.  Instead, Jesus side was pierced.
  5. Controversies surrounding Jesus’ physical death.  The fact that Jesus died within 6 hours has been a fact that some use to dispute the fact that Jesus was dead when removed from the cross.  Given the severity of His scourging it is unlikely that He would have survived long on the cross.  John also records that there was a sudden gush of blood and water upon being pierced through the chest with the spear.    Some have tried to say that Jesus was pierced through the mid-abdomen and that the bladder was pierced or that it was abdominal fluid.  The greek word that John uses for the site at which Jesus was pierced, roughly meaning pleura in English, refers to the chest, specifically the area between the ribs, not the abdomen.  This is well away from the bladder and abdomen.  The gush of water and blood is also consistent with perforation of the thin-walled atrium of the heart and correlates medically with John’s description.  The water would have been caused by fluid which would have collected around the lungs and heart and of course blood which would have been present in the right atrium of the heart.  In Greek many times descriptions are listed in the order of significance.  The fact that blood was mentioned first may relate to the large amount of blood that gushed out versus the smaller volume of water that rushed out of the chest.  There is still some controversy as to whether Christ died from a cardiac rupture due to clot that may have formed on the mitral valve and embolized into the coronary arteries, causing eventual rupture, or whether He died from a combination of conditions, including shock caused by His scourging, exhaustion asphyxiation, and perhaps acute heart failure, or some combination of all of these.  Regardless, the historical and medical evidence clearly indicates that Jesus was indeed dead after hanging on the cross for 6 hours.  The piercing with the spear and fluids that rushed from the chest support that He was dead and the thrusting of the spear into the chest, heart, and lungs also insured that He was indeed dead.  Any assumption that Jesus was not dead is at odds with modern medical knowledge based on the documented history of His death.

V.   Parallels with the Passover

       A. The events of the Passover are recorded in Exodus 12.  Passover parallels:  

            1. Jesus died at the same time that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered at 3 pm in the afternoon.

             2.  Lambs were to be chosen on the 10th of Nisan – the day Mary anointed Jesus with Perfume.  Jesus noted that this perfume was in preparation for His burial and obviously His impending sacrifice.

             3.  A Lamb without blemish was to be sacrificed.  So also Christ was blameless and with blemish.

             4.  Blood was shed at the Passover to provide life.  So also at the Last Supper Jesus indicates that the shedding of His blood would produce life.  Matthew 26:27,28

             5.  The bones of the Passover Lamb were not to be broken and were to be disposed of that same night.  We see also that none of Jesus bones were broken – his legs were not broken because He was already dead.  Also, the Jews wanted the bodies removed before the Passover, therefore the bodies were taken down that evening, just as the left over lamb was to be disposed of before the night was over.

          6.  Similarly there are many parallels with the events that occur during the Passover meal.  One of these relates to the three Matzahs.  One of the three Matzahs is broken and half is wrapped up and hidden.  There is a prize given to the one who finds the hidden piece of Matzah.  So also the Trinity consists of three beings who are one – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Only one of the three members is broken, Christ, and there is a great reward for the One who finds Christ as their Saviour.  Many other parallels abound if we had time to explore all of them.  In a nutshell Jesus fulfilled the Passover Feast.  Many of the Old Testament Feasts have been fulfilled already in the New Testament.  Certainly others are yet to be fulfilled, including the Feast of Trumpets, which many believe will be fulfilled when Christ returns again to earth.  Each September when this event occurs on the Jewish calendar and they blow the trumpet, or Shofar, I wonder if this year, or some year soon, with announce Christ’s return for us, the Church, although none of us know.

VI.  Spiritual Sufferings

  1. The Emotional and Spiritual Agony in the Garden.  His cries were so desperate that Luke records that an angel was sent to strengthen Him before His third prayer.  We also know that He sweat blood.  I don’t think any of us has prayed and struggled spiritually to the point that we’ve sweat blood and had to have an angel appear to strengthen us.  We cannot imagine the spiritual agony of knowing what He was about to endure spiritually – the sinless God becoming sin and being forsaken.
  2. We cannot imagine what it would be like to be forsaken by God the Father.  God desires that all men be saved and longs for us to be redeemed by accepting personally what He did on the cross.  We cannot imagine being sinless, detesting sin, and becoming sin and being forsaken by the Holy, sinless God of the Universe.
  3. Jesus was fully aware of the defilement that sin leaves on a person and He saw our sins as His own, every single sin you and I have ever committed.    We know that this caused God to turn His face from Him.  Jesus uttered from the cross “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  Imagine the pain of being one and the same with God and being forsaken.  
  4. Reproach broke His heart.  We see this recorded in Psalm 69:20.  He had no one to comfort Him for His disciples and followers had forsaken Him
  5. An eternal transaction occurred on the cross between the sinless Son of God and the Heavenly Father.  For the first 3 hours He was our High Priest, mediating on our behalf.  During the last 3 hours of the crucifixion darkness came upon the earth, Christ was forsaken, and took our sins upon Himself.  This is something we can’t even fanthom and what that must have meant from that point on through eternity.  Jesus became the banished scapegoat for all eternity and mankind.    We read in scripture that demons, the “Bulls of Basham”, and other evil and Satanic forces surrounded Christ at the Cross.  Much of this is described in the Messianic Psalms and writings of the prophets in the Old Testament.  In many ways we see an image much like that in the movie “The Lion, The witch, and The Wardrobe” where Aslan, dying on the stone table, is alone, abandoned, and willingly dying all the while surrounded by evil beings.   Christ similiarly experienced God’s rejection and saw that He was surrounded by the forces of evil who felt that they had conquered Him.
  6. It was Christ’s voluntary love that held Him to the cross for those 6 hours, not the nails, He could have ended it all at any time.  He made the Hill upon which the cross stood and voluntarily allowed Himself to be sacrificed for us. It wasn’t the Jews or Romans who secured Him to the cross on our behalf.
  7. There is one thing from this world that now exists for eternity in heaven – the scars that Christ bears for us.  Christ was destined from the foundation of the world to bear our sin.  We’ll never understand what the rejection of sin must have meant to a Holy God.  I Peter 1:18-20.  We read in Revelation a description of Christ – as a lamb who was slain – one day we’ll look upon the One whom they pierced and will be reminded throughout eternity of the tremendous price that Christ paid on our behalf.  The cross had eternal consequences that will be viewable throughout eternity.  

VII.  His Burial

  1. Jesus had been abandoned by His disciples so Joseph of Arimethea went to Pilate and asked for the body to bury it.  He was a member of the Sanhedrin, did not agree to Jesus’ condemnation, and was a secret disciple.  He was an unlikely person to step forward, go to the Roman Judge and Ruler, and ask publically for the body of Jesus.
  2. Isaiah states that the Messiah would make His grave with the wicked and be buried with the Rich.  In fulfillment we know that Christ was crucified  with 2 criminals and died with the wicked but indeed was buried with the Rich in a newly hewn tomb.
  3. We also know from scripture that Jesus was buried by Joseph, John, and Nicodemus.  

VIII.  What are the Implications?

  1. Only someone blameless can pay the price for our sins.   Another criminal cannot concurrently serve his own sentence and offer to serve another’s at the same time.  Jesus Christ, who was sinless, paid the price for our sins and was ransomed for us.  He has paid the purchase price for our release but only if we choose to accept it.
  2. Why doesn’t Christ, the Messiah, return to earth now and redeem it, and put an end to all evil of the evil in the world?  God, in His patience, wants to allow man every opportunity to accept His offer of redemption.  God desires that all mankind be saved.  If Christ had returned several years ago, many of you would not be saved and be sitting it.  You are here only because of God’s patience and desire that every person be saved.  On the other hand Christ’s return is more imminent than ever.  His return could occur at any time and when He exercises judgment on the earth, and exercises the title deed to the earth which He now holds, it will be too late for many.  
  3. Time is running out – will you accept His offer today?
  1. For those of us who have accepted Him, this is the closest to Hell we will ever get…
  2. For those who reject the message, this is the closest to heaven you’ll ever get.
  3. Will you accept His offer which He paid for completely on the cross, both physically and spiritually?
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